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What is shockwave?

Adobe Shockwave is a file format designed to support advanced multimedia applications and content delivery. Shockwave content is created in Adobe Director, and while it is often conflated or confused with Adobe Flash, is far more powerful. Adobe acquired the Shockwave product when it picked up Macromedia.

Macromedia first developed Shockwave for integration with the legendary Netscape browser. Macromedia legends Sarah Allen, Ken Day, John Newlin and Harry Chesley were the team of developers that developed the first system. Then as it generally is now, the main purpose for designing Shockwave a platform for online movies and animation.

Even in the early days, one big driver behind the app was game development. Because Shockwave was born of and exists in the world of the web, it is light and also lends its graphics capabilities in the field of online applications where graphics can add to the application experience. Today, Adobe’s Shockwave Player is installed on over 450 million internet-enabled desktops around the world.

The Shockwave player experience is all about pure media on the web. With 3D games and entertainment, online interactive applications, product demonstrations and more, Adobe Shockwave player offers users exciting content that is produced in Adobe’s Shockwave creation product known as Adobe Director. You may not realize it, but Adobe Shockwave Player can be found to be bundled in with other software (and available to download separately), lending to a robust distribution strategy that reaches out to users on many different channels. Note that this is not Flash we’re talking about, that’s actually a different project which we’ll allude to in just a bit.

The point is, if your website requires support for 3D, advanced multimedia, or training and gaming applications (or you develop custom content and applications of these varieties for your site), you may want to consider choosing a hosting provider who supports Adobe Shockwave. Created using Adobe Director, Shockwave is perfect for website owners looking to provide interactive or multimedia content in a secure, feature-rich, and compiled (as opposed to open-source) format. Shockwave is somewhat ‘thicker’ than Flash, but it does offer a consistent, more stable experience for those applications that use it.

Shockwave, not Flash

Often confused with its “little brother,” Adobe Flash, Shockwave is far less ubiquitous on the Web. Compared to Flash, Shockwave files load more slowly and are not as readily modified (as Shockwave is built using Director and then compiled, as opposed to Flash, which are created with the application of the same name, open-source and relatively easy to change). However, Shockwave has a far richer feature set than Flash, including hardware-accelerated 3D rendering, support for multiple network protocols and languages, and even the ability to incorporate content created in Flash. Plus, with a wide range of plug-ins (known as “Xtras), Shockwave's functionality can be extended even further.

While Flash is ideal for streaming content, vector-based images and simple animations, Shockwave allows for truly interactive content to be incorporated into your site, and can create fully 3D environments for games, training applications, and media players.

While Shockwave has this history of focusing on web animations and online movies, the mission has shifted somewhat in recent years. Today, while Shockwave maintains its ability to present video and animation, it is far more concentrated in the area of game development and within online applications that have requirements that call for rich, graphical environments. Examples of that include any number of rendering applications, graphing, charts and calculations. Quite obviously , a graphic-focused application is a natural to fulfill these kinds of applications demands.

While Director itself costs a pretty penny (with the base version coming in at around $1,000), the Shockwave player itself is a free download from Adobe. And because it's cross-platform compatible and installed in the user's browser, it shouldn't add anything to your monthly hosting budget. For now, Adobe Director is not a part of Adobe's Creative Cloud, nor is there any indication that it ever will be.

One final caveat: though you'll most likely build your Shockwave content on your own system rather than your the server itself, it's always a good idea to make sure you have all the details about storing and serving applications you create before adding them to your Web server.

Shockwave Frequently Asked Questions

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